By Aris Barkas/ firstname.lastname@example.org
Giannis Antetokounmpo is not only an extremely talented but raw NBA rookie. In Greece, he is also the reason for a heated political debate.
The financial crisis is still a hard reality for the country, extreme right-wing politics are entering the main agenda of the government and one of those politics was the abolition of the law 3838. This law was introduced by the previous government and if it was used, it would give Greek nationality to every child born on Greek soil and raised in the country, no matter if its parents were illegal immigrants.
Antetokounmpo is one of those children, but his basketball talents gave him and his brother the Greek nationality, even under the current law – and not law 3838 – because “of special services to the country”.
As the Greek ministry of internal affairs clarified in a press release on Tuesday: “The nationality was given lawfully to the two young men, based on the legal provisions for stateless individuals. Those specific provisions apply to the case of children who are born in Greece and are stateless”.
The ministry confirmed that the process of the Antetokounmpo brothers, Giannis and Thanasis, getting the Greek nationality was fast-tracked in order for him to have the legal right to be part of the NBA draft. That was the reason for his absence from Nike’s hoops summit since he wasn’t entitled to any kind of travel documents at the time.
Before the meeting of 18 years old Antetokounmpo with the Greek prime minister Antonis Samaras, the Greek union for human rights also issued a press release accusing the Greek state of hypocrisy: “The thousands of others who are born in Greece, have been raised and study in the country, are still stateless. They can wait. They don’t deserve to be compatriots”.
And finally, former prime minister Giorgos Papandreou attacked Samaras: “The prime minister and his party should have shown their support to the law 3838 of our government and not change its essence”.
As Giannis Antetokounpo is starting his professional career in the biggest stage, he can also be a symbol of change in Greece. It’s a big burden for a young man who has also to face the challenge of being an NBA player, despite having a very limited playing experience and none at the highest level. But even if his example can push things forward, it’s not only a personal but also a social gain. His two younger brothers are still stateless.
UPDATE: Even the extreme right tried to get a piece in Antetokounmpo politics. One day after the meeting of the player with the prime minister, the leader of the neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn likened him to a ”chimpanzee” and of course, the Greek basketball federation reacted.